Wonka review: a sweet, satisfying musical prequel

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Timothée Chalamet holds a cane successful Wonka.

“Paul King's Wonka is simply a amazingly worthwhile prequel.”


  • Timothée Chalamet's charming lead performance
  • Director Paul King's inimitable consciousness of joke and heart
  • A amazingly topical, profoundly felt plot


  • Several jokes passim miss nan mark
  • It is, astatine times, excessively sentimental for its ain good

Unlike its trailers, Wonka doesn’t consciousness nan request to hide what it is. Barely a fewer seconds person passed successful nan caller movie earlier its lead, Timothée Chalamet, has climbed to nan apical of a steamboat and begun to singing astir his lofty dreams and discouragingly constricted means. Director Paul King’s previous, pitch-perfect Paddington movies whitethorn person moved and felt for illustration musicals, but Wonka proudly is one. While watching it instantly clasp its ain whimsy and earnestness successful its first fewer minutes, though, I had a distressing thought: “Is this what moviegoers want?”

In galore ways, Wonka feels for illustration a relic of nan past — and not conscionable because it’s meant to beryllium a prequel to Mel Stuart and Roald Dahl’s divisive 1971 classical Willy Wonka & nan Chocolate Factory. The caller movie is nan benignant of warm, open-hearted, and sentimental blockbuster that 1 could erstwhile count connected hitting theaters each December. Nowadays, moreover successful a post-Greatest Showman and La La Land world, it’s still much apt that we’ll get an Aquaman sequel and an overly somber portion of awards bait than 1 playful, family-friendly philharmonic adjacent nan extremity of each year. Wonka is simply a batch of things, but trendy? Not truthful much.

Fortunately, it doesn’t return agelong to recognize that mightiness conscionable beryllium nan point. Wonka imagines a world successful which its eponymous magician and chocolatier is not a titanic businessman, but nan caller kid connected nan block. He arrives connected nan segment pinch very fewer coins successful his pocket, nary a spot connected his shoulder, and a puerility dream that has kept him afloat for good complete a decade. As nan existing, ever-conspiring leaders of nan cocoa manufacture do everything they tin to extremity his revolutionary equipment from catching on, Wonka announces itself arsenic a movie astir nan necessity of, well, axenic imagination successful a world tally by group who only want to waste you what you’ve seen and tasted a cardinal times before.

Timothée Chalamet dances successful a multicolored mill successful Wonka.Warner Bros. Pictures

Did anyone request a movie astir Willy Wonka root story? No. As charming and winning arsenic overmuch of it is, Wonka doesn’t ever win successful wholly justifying its existence, either. For astir of its 116-minute runtime, nan movie feels truthful overmuch for illustration a balm to nan artificially made, insincere blockbusters of modern Hollywood that you almost hide that it’s fundamentally a caller summation to a spot that has existed since 1964. The cardinal connection is “almost.” What makes Wonka’s mercenary reasons for existing easier to tummy is nan truth that it doesn’t look each that willing successful really exploring nan analyzable quality of its titular character. The film’s screenplay, penned by King and his Paddington co-collaborator Simon Farnaby, rounds retired galore of Willy Wonka’s rougher edges. Gone, for instance, is nan mischievousness that seemed to separator astatine times connected nefarious.

It’s been replaced by an wide sweetness and innocence that makes Chalamet’s Wonka consciousness reasonably distant from nan versions of nan characteristic antecedently played by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, but which fits good wrong King’s now-established marque of absurd drama and earnest optimism. Chalamet, for his part, gets nan chance to agelong his movie prima muscles much than he ever has earlier here. His singing and dancing skills aren’t needfully thing to constitute location about, but nan character plays his type of Wonka arsenic he’s written well. He imbues him pinch an endearingly nerdy separator that paints nan characteristic not arsenic a narcissistic early tycoon, but arsenic a lightly kooky young man who believes profoundly successful his own, heightened position of nan world (sometimes dangerously so) and is hopeless to get others to spot it, too.

Like he did successful Paddington and Paddington 2, King surrounds Wonka’s protagonist pinch an ensemble of perfectly formed supporting players. Olivia Colman and Tom Davis are delightfully devilish arsenic a brace of con artists who person turned taking advantage of unsuspecting visitors into a full-blown, slave-wage business. Calah Lane, Jim Carter, Rakhee Thakrar, Natasha Rothwell, and Rich Fulcher, conversely, adhd further bosom and joke to nan movie arsenic Wonka’s devoted friends. Sally Hawkins, meanwhile, shines successful a comparatively thankless role, and her Paddington 2 co-star, Hugh Grant, gives yet different scene-stealing capacity arsenic Lofty, a wished Oompa-Loompa who gradually strikes up an improbable relationship pinch Chalamet’s inventive chocolatier.

The heads of nan Chocolate Cartel each constituent astatine Keegan-Michael Key successful Wonka.Warner Bros. Pictures

Grant’s move arsenic a miniature-sized Oompa-Loompa, which is brought to life successful nan movie via a operation of CGI and motion-capture effects, is nan closest that Wonka comes to rubbing nan unsettling undercurrent of strangeness that runs passim its Wilder-led predecessor. Even still, King captures and utilizes Grant’s capacity successful a measurement that yet feels successful statement pinch his unsocial marque of playful absurdity. What acheronian location is to beryllium recovered successful Wonka exists solely successful nan conflict that blooms betwixt Chalamet’s aspiring creator and Arthur Slugworth (a standout Paterson Joseph), Mr. Prodnose (Matt Lucas), and Mr. Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), nan 3 cartoonishly evil heads of nan Chocolate Cartel, which is tally by and consists only of them.

When Wonka arrives successful their metropolis looking to yet recognize his lifelong dream of being a world-renowned chocolatier, Prodnose, Fickelgruber, and Slugworth quickly spell to activity marring his estimation and utilizing their governmental connections to prohibition him from trading immoderate of his wares. In consequent scenes, it’s revealed that nan 3 nationalist competitors person been secretly diluting their merchandise together for years, each truthful that their customers subconsciously study to expect little and little from them. As evident arsenic nan ideas down this peculiar storyline are, Wonka wisely doesn’t verbally aliases intellectually underline them excessively much, opting alternatively to fto nan emotions of its characters return halfway stage.

Still, successful a twelvemonth wherever nan money-hoarding practices of Hollywood’s apical elites and nan industry’s progressively old output person travel nether unprecedented fire, Wonka’s amazingly governmental crippled feels inevitably topical. It doesn’t ever resistance Wonka down aliases get successful nan measurement of its galore philharmonic moments, but it does adhd an absorbing wrinkle to nan film’s story. Some whitethorn beryllium speedy to mobility nan validity of a Willy Wonka & nan Chocolate Factory prequel arguing for nan value of caller creator ideas and voices, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to spot a blockbuster of this size interest itself pinch specified matters. Neil Hannon’s original songs don’t fortify aliases reenforce nan film’s themes much, nor do they linger agelong aft Wonka is over, but they do support nan film moving guardant astatine an engagingly accelerated gait from commencement to finish.

Noodle holds onto Willy successful Wonka.Warner Bros. Pictures

As a musical, Wonka useful well. The movie ne'er rather hits nan highs of either of King’s Paddington efforts, moreover arsenic he proves yet again that he’s amended astatine blocking and paying disconnected ocular gags than astir different board moving today. As acold arsenic cinematic confections go, Wonka is an efficaciously sugary prequel that packs a much powerful punch than its wrapping suggests. Does that make it astatine each trendy? Definitely not. It is, however, timelier than it has immoderate logic to be, and much worthwhile than immoderate could person rightly expected.

Wonka is now playing successful theaters nationwide.

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